Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Look Back (1983): "Synchronicity" by The Police

1983 was an incredible year for music (and we'll look back at some more of these soon)....the year that saw chart topping songs like "Billie Jean" and "1999", "Karma Chameleon" and "Let's Dance", "Flashdance...What a Feeling" and "Every Breath You Take"....the year we lost legends like Karen Carpenter & Muddy Waters, and future legends were born like T-Pain & Amy Winehouse....the birth of band Bon Jovi & The Cult, and the death of bands Humble Pie & Roxie Music...the year of "Rebel Yell" by Billy Idol and "Let's Dance" by David Bowie and "Thriller" dominated the charts....the year debut albums from Madonna, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Branford Marallis, Rock Goddess, Whodini, Tears for Fears, Weird Al Yankovich, Ministry, Afrika Bambaataa, Pantera, Suicidal Tendencies, Wham!, Metallica, The Waterboys, Queensryche, Cyndi Lauper, and others.....and so much more!

Today, however, we'll look back at the masterpiece from The Police, the album "Synchronicity".

"Synchronicity" was the 5th & final studio album by The Police (Sting, Andy Summers, Stewart Copeland), and followed four highly successful albums (both commercially & critically - all 4 reaching platinum sales status & multiple Grammy nominations), including hit songs like "Roxanne", "Message in a Bottle", "(Don't Stand) So Close to Me", "Walking on the Moon", "Invisible World", "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic", and more.

The band went on to win 5 Grammy Awards, were inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, and listed as one of the Top 100 Artists of All Time by Rolling Stone....and all 3 members went on to have highly successful solo careers (especially Sting, who garnered an additional award nominations & wins, including 4 Academy Award nominations, an AMA, 3 Brit Awards, a Golden Globe Award, 11 Grammy Awards, and dozens more nominations, after releasing 15 solo albums, many of which achieved platinum status).

"Synchronicity" was released in June of 1983 after only 6 weeks of recording & mixing. It was an immediate hit, ultimately seeing 5 hit singles, winning 3 Grammy Awards (of 5 nominations), sold over 8 million copies in the US alone, charted in 14 countries (Top 20 in all 14 and hitting #1 in seven countries), was #1 on the US charts for 17 non-consecutive weeks (interrupted by Michael Jackson's "Thriller"), and went on to further accolades including Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" and the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Sooo...enough of the formalities - let's take a look at each song!

(all songs written by Sting except track 4 by Andy Summers & track 5 by Stewart Copeland)

side one

1) "Synchronicity I" 
This song explodes from the speakers as the lead track to their most successful album....a tense synth theme starts things and then the band jumps in. Key changes abound (every section in a new key, running from Cm to Fm to Gm to Am), held together by the driving rhythm that never lets up, call & response vocal harmonies, and lyrics waxing poetic on Carl Jung's theory of the same name (synchronicity to Jung is when 2 events are "meaningfully related" but not causally connected) with lines like "....With one breath, with one flow. You will know synchronicity. A sleep trance, a dream dance. A shared romance, synchronicity....". 

2) "Walking in Your Footsteps" 
Amazing electronic & acoustic percussion mixed with flute, delay-soaked guitar, and voices jump right in, laying a perfect ethereal backdrop for Sting's voice. The lyrics liken the dominance of dinosaurs "....50 million years ago...." (well, more like 65, but you know - poetic license) to the current human condition and the music features aggressive guitar work from Summers and an outstanding vocal performance.

3) "O My God" 
Fantastic track that Sting actually wrote prior to his time with The Police, but got a major overhaul by the band. The song features a very busy bass line, tight drums with equally tight funky guitar chords, swelling synth, and a saxophone throughout. At the end of the song, Sting quotes his own lyrics from "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" (a device he uses in many other songs across his solo catalog also).

4) "Mother"
Outlandish song written by guitarist Andy Summers featuring bizarre and angular guitar melodies over a static 7/8 groove, "world music" elements (including odd scales), and an over-the-top vocal performance by Summers. For most, this is an acquired taste, but sheds light on the extremes the band was willing to go to explore new territory.

5) "Miss Gradenko"
Stewart Copeland written track, features a straight 4 groove with a mix of clean melody and edgy "out of character" shots, with a "Demolition Man" intensity from Sting and a fully avant-guarde guitar solo!

6) "Synchronicity II"
Moody opening to this driving rock song that seems to have no meaningful connection to its sister track, "Synchronicity I" (though both were written in Jamaica at Ian Fleming's "Goldeneye" estate). As a single, the song charted in 4 countries (peaking at #16 in the US) and the video saw heavy rotation on MTV.

side 2

7) "Every Breath You Take"
The Biggest Song in the World performed by the Biggest Band in the World (as The Police were dubber in 1983/84).....this song won 2 Grammy Awards, the Ivor Novella Award, was voted Song of the Year on a Rolling Stone readers poll, the best selling single of 1983, charted in 27 countries (6 at #1 and over 20 in the top 10, remaining at #1 in the US for 8 consecutive weeks), and became the most played song in radio history (surpassing "You've Lost that Loving Feeling").

A breakdown of this song is available in our "Sonic Sorcery" songwriting series HERE!

8) "King of Pain"
This follow-up single to "Every Breath You Take" had most believing the song would tank, but the incredible writing & performance catapulted this song to heavy rotation on radio, #1 on the charts in the US, and almost unanimously hailed by music critics and fans alike.

The song features powerful lyrics atop a sparse music section...pulsing bass, chiming guitars, delicate drums, until the second verse when the band fully kicks in, followed by melodic guitar solo, instrumental bridge, and a return to the verse and chorus.

9) "Wrapped Around Your Finger"
Mysterious melodies & lyrics, mixed with more "world music" elements (Andy's guitar mimicking a sitar-like instrument, for example) and Copeland's melodic fusion-like drumming that oddly matches (at seeming random intervals) other instrumental segments.

A lyrical twist worthy of the best story tellers, gorgeous visualscape for the video (that required at least 1000 candles),  heavy TV rotation, and saw it charting in 12 countries (peaking at #8 in the US).

10) "Tea in the Sahara"
The final song on the vinyl edition, the lyrics were inspired by Sting's reading of the novel "The Sheltering Sky" (a 1949 novel by composer & author Paul Bowles). The delicate instrumentation includes an oboe played by Sting, space-age guitars, and an uplift into a beautiful chorus.

11) "Murder By Numbers"
The final song on the CD & cassette editions of the album, it has a wicked "rhythm illusion" care of Stewart Copeland, until the chorus makes clear the shuffled 4 backbeat....only to be obscured by Copeland again as they return to the verses. Brilliant! The lyrics are full-on psychopath, with the guitar's quasi-dissonant chords matching the lyrics perfectly.

Amazing album and definitely on my list of "100 albums to hear before you die"!

Note: The version of this on my Patreon Page will ultimately feature several song charts.
As always, if you find these lesson articles (or any of my work) valuable, please feel free to donate one time or support monthly:

Monthly support: https://www.patreon.com/skinnydevilmusic​ or https://www.paypal.me/skinnydevilmusic​ (Pay What You Will)

One-shot support: https://www.paypal.me/skinnydevilmusic​ or www.venmo.com/David-McLean-47 (Pay What You Will)

No comments:

Post a Comment